The Benefits of Combining Your Calendar and To Do List

The Strength of These Two Things Together Can Increase Your Productivity

As business owners, entrepreneurs, hardworking employees of companies, and active people, we find ourselves busier than ever during this time of the year. As we approach the end of one year and begin preparing for next, there just isn’t enough time to get everything done. Add to this the Holiday season and everything that goes with this…it can get overwhelming.

As busy people we struggle trying to get everything done. The thing we need to remember is…

We don’t have to get EVERYTHING done.

Instead, we should prioritize our actions and focus on the first next thing. What is the most important thing currently on the list? At the same time we need to remember there is a limited amount of time available.

Recently I had a day that made the importance of a calendar and the limits of time very clear.

I typically have my calendar packed tight. Some of you have seen my calendar and know what I’m talking about. On this particular day, I had no meetings or events scheduled. I was lazy about putting things on the calendar.

As always, I had a long list of things to do. More than I could ever get done. The problem with not having things scheduled on the calendar is…the importance of time available is lost. At the end of that day, I was disappointed in how little I got done. I should have put things on the calendar.

This is why it’s important to use a list and a calendar together.

A calendar is a visual view of the time available. As you put things on the calendar, the day, the week(s) and the future begin to fill up. It’s a gauge for what you can get done. It isn’t an exact science; you already know that some things are going to take longer than you plan for.

Seeing this limited amount of time packed to the point of running over amps up the sense of urgency. This increased urgency improves productivity. It’s a black and white way to see the limited time available, a list of things to do doesn’t show you this.

A calendar is a great way to measure the time you have to do the things on the list.

The purpose of lists is to keep track of things that need to be done. We all have lists of things to do, whether it’s in our head, on paper or electronic. I use OneNote for my lists because of its simplicity, connect-ability, flexibility and options available.

The thing that I like about my OneNote list is that it improves my ability to keep track of the things on the list and allows me to easily move things around and add or remove as things change. And we all know that things never change. 😊

A list is a great way for prioritizing things that need done first and keeping track of the rest.

A calendar is a time focused tool. The “to do list” is just what it says…a list of things to do. These are two different tools, with different purposes and abilities that work well together.

Most of us business owners, entrepreneurs, hardworking employees of companies, and active people want to be more productive. Using these two tools to support each other is a good place to start.

You’ll Never Get the Things You Want Done…Without Being Reminded

How “Outlook Tasks” Can Help You Accomplish This

Organization can be difficult to achieve. One monkey wrench that regularly gets thrown into the organizational machine is forgetting things. This can be costly when it’s a meeting with a customer or a deadline for a proposal that’s missed.

Too many things bouncing around in our head at one time, makes us more likely to forget things.

Over the past several weeks we’ve discussed the system I use for scheduling my time and organizing my tasks. There were two main focuses.

The reasons for having a system –

The tools I use –

Now we’ll look at the third tool – Outlook Tasks. This is a separate function from the calendar in Outlook. On the surface, using Tasks in Outlook seems redundant to having lists in OneNote.

I shared how I use OneNote for collecting and sharing information. It is great for this. It’s easier to move things around when reviewing and prioritizing lists. Not to mention you can draw, record video, record audio, and a whole lot of other things that you can’t do in Outlook Tasks.

Next was how I used Outlook Calendar to block out and schedule my time. The benefits of a calendar, whether digital or written is allotting time for tasks. One thing written calendars and Tasks in OneNote don’t do is remind you of upcoming appointments and things on the to do list that need done.

Reminders are the game changer.

In Outlook, both calendar events and tasks can have reminders scheduled…there’s some reminders now. As I writing this a reminder alarm sounded and a window popped up on the screen. Now it’s up to me to determine what to do with these reminders.

One is a recurring meeting with myself coming up in 15 minutes (snoozed it until 5 minutes before). Two are action list reminders (snoozed for 15 minutes). Any of these reminders can be snoozed for a specific period of time or dismissed to be rescheduled later.

When I’m in the middle of doing focused work like preparing proposals for construction projects or writing a blog post, etc. It’s easy for me to lose track of time and forget things. Reminders help prevent that.

Outlook Tasks will connect with the other tools in my scheduling system.

All the tools in this system have specific functions that only they serve. At the same time, they all support the other and work together. (There’s the reminder again. Am I going to snooze them again or take a break from writing? I’m going to pause my writing and come back to it. I have another meeting coming up in 30 minutes.)

Here I am, back to writing. I only have a short amount of time to write before I need to go home to watch the Camping World Truck race that’s on this evening. Another thing that’s scheduled on the calendar.

I can set reminders in Outlook Tasks to be one and done or recurring at specific times and days. I can embed links in the tasks directly to action lists in OneNote. This way when a task reminder comes up, I can open it, click on the link and go directly to OneNote to that specific list.

I know all that scheduling and planning can seem overwhelming and it can be. You can decide if or how much scheduling and planning you will do. Not doing anything will leave you drifting through life with no clear destination. Having a system in place with reminders both for prioritizing and allotting time, will help you get things done.

Are you going to be in control of your life or is it going to be in control of you?

How I Use Outlook to Be Better Organized

It’s All About Being Intentional

Getting organized and staying that way can be a real challenge. There are so many important things we need to do. Not to mention all the amazing things we want to do. It’s easy for the list to get so long we don’t even want to look at it.

A long list makes it hard to even know where to start.

But if we don’t write things down they’re less real and more easily forgotten. I use OneNote for keeping track of the things I need or want to do. A list is a great way to track and prioritize things.

The problem with a list is that it doesn’t block out allotted time.

This is where a calendar comes in. Whether digital or written a calendar allows you to block out a period of time for the things you’re going to do. This provides a visual restraint to an otherwise uncontrolled list.

The advantage to digital calendars is the reminders…written ones don’t do this very well. With most everyone having a smart phone in today’s world it’s much harder to forget things that need done. Digital calendars sync across a variety of devices which makes it much more difficult to forget something that’s scheduled.

This is where organization starts to get fun.

Let’s say you have a short list of 50 things to do. It’s up to you to prioritize them in the order that is relative to you and your situation. You know which ones you need or want to do first.

What if the most important thing on the list doesn’t need to be finished until the end of the day. But some of the less important things are connected to someone else’s list and they need them done first thing this morning. Or what if you are a member of a mastermind group that meets at the same time every week and that happens to be today at 11:00 AM.

How do you know what you’re going to do when?

 This is why I find my calendar to be such an important tool. I use my various lists in OneNote to prioritize. Then I look at my calendar. What things are already on there, scheduled appointments, recurring meetings, etc. With the open time left I plug in the most important things from my list. I fill the remainder of my day from beginning to end with things that I need or want to do.

This can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Fun and free time can be scheduled as easily as work.

Benefits of calendaring are:

  • It’s harder to make excuses to not do it, once it’s written on the calendar.
  • I take it more seriously; it becomes more real when it’s written on the calendar.
  • Big things become more manageable when they’re broken down into small sections of time and put on the calendar.
  • Seeing things that have been done when looking at the calendar provides a sense of accomplishment.
  • When there is a reminder that something else is starting in 30 minutes I stay more focused.

I never like to start something without being able to finish it. This makes it hard for me to stop when I’m in the middle of something. Having things scheduled tight on the calendar helps remind me that sometimes I just have to stop what I’m doing and come back to it later. It depends on it’s level of importance.

I’m more productive with a full calendar.

I push harder and focus better if I know there’s something else to do in 15 minutes. If there’s open time I take my foot off the accelerator. It’s how I get control of my life.

One of the greatest things about a digital calendar is the ability to easily move things around. Your calendar like your life is up to you. You can choose what you will do and when you’ll do it.

Just be flexibly rigid.

My go to calendar is Outlook because I love the way it connects with OneNote and syncs with my Motorola phone. Next week we’ll discuss how the Task List portion of Outlook completes this organizational system.

How To Get Control Of Your Life

Budget Your Time…You Have a Limited Amount

For years I have heard people express frustration with organizing and managing their schedules and “to do” lists. For years I was one of those people. These issues are multiplied when running a business.

Not that I have it all figured out but, I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

The question of what the best tool to use to manage scheduling and “to do” lists, has come up a lot lately. Most people are looking for a simple app or tool that will magically do it all.

There is nothing that will miraculously do this for you.

I’ve been refining my scheduling system for decades. Trying different things, starting with paper calendars, notebooks and notes on scrap paper. Now it’s all on my computer. I like my system way better now than before (I still use some paper for quick notes). However, it doesn’t do the work without my involvement.

Here’s the thing, most of us have way more things on our lists than there is time to get them done. Or we forget to do something because it wasn’t written down. Or the paper it was written on got lost in a stack of papers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget or misplace reminders.

Keeping track of things is the most important part of being organized.

We naturally want order in our lives. We want to be in control. The problem is we live in a world of chaos. Organization is a weapon to fight against the chaos. The more organized we are the less chaos there is.

What does organization look like? According to Webster, organization is, “the act or process of organizing or being organized.” Organize is, “to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole, to arrange by systematic planning and united effort.” This sounds good to me.

Having OCD, Organizational Compulsive Disorder, I organize at a level more intense and detailed than most.

My system works for me. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s has to be at this level. Some people feel restricted by a schedule. Just like some people feel that a budget restricts them financially.

I find both to be freeing.

My detailed system allows me to know what to expect. Not to mention it keeps me motivated to get more done. I used to struggle to determine what thing should be done next.

It is a combination of lists and calendars. My “to do” lists are a place to write things down so that they aren’t forgotten. I then prioritize the things that need to be done to reach goals. Each task gets an amount of time and then put on the calendar. The calendar allows me to see the tasks as a block of time and not just an item on a list.

A calendar works like a “budget” for time.

It is easy to let things slide if you aren’t intentional about planning. The most important thing is to know yourself and figure out what works for you.

Next week I will open up my toolbox and show you the tools I use to keep control of my life and minimize the chaos.

How I Use My Calendar to be More Productive

Investing Your Time Intentionally Is the Key to Unlocking Productivity

There are as many different ways to use calendars as there are people. Not only that, but if you’re like me, the way we use them continues to change. Not to mention, that calendars themselves keep changing. They have gone from tracking days by scratching a mark in the wall of a cave to now being computerized.

Purpose driven people are constantly looking for ways to be more productive.

I don’t know if I’m going through a phase or if getting older is making me more aware of the limited time I have to spend. Either way my desire to be more productive is at an all-time high.

When scheduling things, it is important to be flexibly rigid. This is balancing the importance of planning with intentionality and the realization that life happens. Finding that balance is hard.

One of the benefits to a computer calendar is the ease with which things can be added, shared, moved or deleted…this is also a detriment. Over the past few years I realized that I was moving things on the calendar that I had scheduled with myself. I would schedule tasks for myself on the calendar and they would get pushed back and back and back again. Then I realized I wasn’t giving meetings with myself as much importance as those with others.

Then I realized the calendar is like any other tool. It doesn’t serve its purpose if it isn’t used properly.

The first thing with any tool is to determine what its purpose(s) is and use it accordingly.

  • Scheduling meetings – The most basic purpose of a calendar is for scheduling meetings. These may be recurring meeting or one-time meetings. Scheduling our tasks as meetings with ourselves and giving them equal importance is critical to productivity.

  • Reminder of things ahead – This could be meetings, events, actions, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

  • Budgeting time – Similar to money a calendar can work like a budget for time. When you start filling out the calendar there is a limit to how much space there is. When it gets filled up, you’re going to need to stop trying to spend more.

  • Prioritizing what you spend time on – Once the calendar is full and there are still things to put on it, you must decide what goes on and what comes off. This calls for a time triage

Determine what works best for you and use your calendar accordingly.

Some days I would accomplish almost everything on my list and then there were days where it felt like I hadn’t achieved hardly anything. As I began to study why that was, it became apparent that the most productive days were the ones that I had packed the calendar full, from beginning to end, even little things. The days that were less productive had more unscheduled and open time. I realized that when my day was scheduled so full that I didn’t think I could get it all done, I was focused and did much better at staying on task.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been scheduling my calendar full, to the point of some days being scheduled tight without any open space. In doing this I have noticed that I have been consistently more productive. This doesn’t mean that everything gets done, just that I’ve been more productive.

There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but this seems to be working.

I still need to work on being wiser about what I spend my time on. There’s limited time so we all need to be good stewards of the time we’ve been given. Being productive requires intentional action. Productivity seems like a big monster, but we can take him out if we’ll just start implementing small steps in the right direction.